Peace becomes number one paid app in US, forcing publishers to adapt to new reality
Less than a day after the launch of iOS 9, Apple’s latest operating system, content blocking software is at the top of the app charts worldwide.
In the UK, two content blockers have hit the top 20 paid apps, with Purify at number 11 and Peace at number 12. In the US, the take-up has been even starker: Purify is at number 5 in the charts, and Peace is the top paid app in the whole country.
The popularity of the apps suggests that mobile adblocking – which has been enabled in Apple’s default Safari browser for users who have upgraded to iOS 9 – could become even more widespread than it is on desktop. A 2014 report suggested that on desktop almost 150 million browsers were using some form of adblocker.
The rise of adblocking has proved concerning for web publishers, many of whom rely largely or exclusively on display advertising for revenue. In Germany, four major broadcasters have now tried and failed to win in court against Eyeo, which makes one of the largest adblockers: AdBlock Plus. Publishers argue that blocking display ads hurts their business, and is unethical because it allows users to view content without paying the implied price of an ad impression.
The developer of Peace is Marco Arment, a high profile iOS developer known for being the first employee of Tumblr, as well as his previous apps Instapaper and Overcast. Peace isn’t his first entry into adblocking: a side-effect of Instapaper, the first of a class of apps which download content to read off-line, was stripping the adverts from saved content, in order to make them cleaner and easier to read.
But Peace is Arment’s first app where ad blocking is the primary focus, and he has addressed the ethical concerns of such a move a number of times. “We shouldn’t feel guilty about this,” he said in the app’s launch announcement. “The ‘implied contract’ theory that we’ve agreed to view ads in exchange for free content is void because we can’t review the terms first — as soon as we follow a link, our browsers load, execute, transfer, and track everything embedded by the publisher. Our data, battery life, time, and privacy are taken by a blank check with no recourse.”
“If 2004 was about Meetup, 2008 was about Facebook, 2016 is going to be about Meerkat (or something just like it),” vowed President Barack Obama’s ex-communications guru Dan Pfeiffer.=
Not yet. It’s increasingly clear, as two dozen campaigns and their super PACs plot their strategies, that 2016, will be, once again, about television.
Between campaigns and independent groups, television-ad spending during the 2016 elections is projected to top $4.4 billion. That’s more than a half-billion more than in 2012. And it’s at least four times what campaigns and groups are preparing to spend on their online strategies.
The extinction of the 30-second political television ad has long been predicted as long as that of the bald eagle. In 2011, a columnist for the Daily Beast wrote about the advent of the viral Internet video in a piece called “The End of TV Campaign Ads?”
But that’s not what the roughly two-dozen presidential campaigns are thinking, according to a POLITICO survey of ad buyers and campaign strategists.
“The bulk of advertising is still going to be on TV,” said Brent McGoldrick, who served as the director of advertising and analytics on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and is now CEO of Deep Root Analytics, a Republican ad-targeting firm. “It is a proven medium. It is a medium that most campaigns and most consultants are used to.”
Congressional Democrats’ push to strengthen political ad disclosures in time for the 2016 elections appears dead for now after hitting a roadblock at the Federal Communications Commission.
Amid a divisive legal battle over new net neutrality rules and other pressing telecommunications issues at the FCC, Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested the commission has little appetite to take up a fix on its own.
“Maybe you noticed — we have a long list of difficult telecommunications related decisions that we are dealing with right now. And that will be our focus,” Wheeler said last week when asked if the commission would initiate new rules on its own.
Billions of dollars are expected pour into the 2016 election, and Democrats have pressed the FCC to update its rules to require large donors to be identified at the end of television ads purchased by super-PACs and other outside groups.
Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to force the agency’s hand and Wheeler, a Democrat, noted he would “clearly follow” any mandate from Congress.
But the title of the House proposal — which overtly references GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch — indicates that the party sees it as more of a messaging bill than anything else. And a failed vote on the legislation in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last week confirmed that the proposal would not be able to get passed Republican opposition.
“This isn’t the place for it. If you want to do campaign finance reform, there are other committees of jurisdiction,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
EXPOSING THE MURKY WORLD OF ONLINE ADS AIMED AT KIDS
When YouTube released an app specifically for kids a couple months back, many parents rejoiced. If the app worked as promised, they’d have to worry less about their kids stumbling onto grown-up content on the video network, much less on cable’s carnival of depravity. But a more insidious threat may be afoot in this supposedly innocent walled-off world.
At least, that’s the claim of 10 consumer watchdog groups who filed a joint complaint today with the Federal Trade Commission over the YouTube Kids app, claiming it misleads parents and violates rules on “unfair and deceptive marketing” for kids.
YouTube launched their kid-targeted app in February in the hopes of offering “a safer and easier” way for tots to find shows like Reading Rainbow and Thomas the Tank Engine online. The app promised to limit content to family-friendly videos, channels, and educational clips—a concept pretty much lauded by parents. But child advocacy groups say YouTube is deceiving kids by mixing ads and content without clear delineations.
That may or may not be the case. But in raising the issue at all, the complaint casts light on a wider concern. When it comes to advertising to kids, the rules for the internet are fuzzier than the tightly regulated world of television, in large part because internet advertising itself is always changing. In the meantime, kids could be left vulnerable.
Blurring the Boundaries
By the 1950s, Big Tobacco knew smoking caused cancer. By the 1960s, the companies knew nicotine was addictive and that smoking could lead to heart disease. But three decades later, tobacco executives stood up before Congress and, under oath, denied the facts.
The same story has played out with other major scientific issues of our time, from climate change to the health harms of various chemicals. As scientists build consensus, industry tries to obscure their findings outside the ivory tower, turning non-debates into ginned-up controversies.
A new documentary, Merchants of Doubt, shows exactly how for-profit players covertly shape popular thinking about the biggest science questions of the day. The movie helps explain that the fight about climate change — and smoking, and environmental chemicals — is actually about political ideology and questions of how people should live and govern themselves.
Naomi Oreskes, a historian at Harvard. (Barry Berona/ Sony Pictures Classics)
The documentary was inspired by the research of Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University. She coauthored the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt after stumbling on an amazing discovery: in all the journal articles on global climate change published between 1992 and 2002, there was complete consensus among researchers that the warming of the planet was caused by man. Yet somehow this monolithic agreement wasn’t making it out of the annals of research. Oreskes wanted to figure out why.
I spoke to her about how the hidden lessons in her research can be applied to current debates in science, what the public, scientists, and journalists can learn from her work on Big Tobacco and Big Oil, and how we can avoid repeating history.
Julia Belluz: In your research, you’ve looked at how scientists come to consensus. This is really interesting in the context of debates about climate change or the effects of tobacco because many of the people who tried to communicate the consensus to the public early on were derided and attacked, and treated like fringe lunatics amid disinformation campaigns being organized covertly by industry. What’s the lesson here?
Naomi Oreskes: If someone casts doubt on science, there are two questions we should ask. Number one: Who are they? Do they have a vested interest in challenging the scientific knowledge for some reason that has nothing to do with science?
instead of talking about HOW the sea level is rising, we can fight about the politics
The second question is: how well has the scientific community been studying this? In lots of cases, scientists do change their minds, especially in the early stages of investigation. So it’s important for us to look at the process by which scientists come to their conclusions and whether, after studying for some period of time, they have come to some kind of general agreement. And if someone is challenging that consensus, we have to be questioning who this person is and what is their interest.
JB: We in the media are encouraged to find the new and counterintuitive study, the miracle pill or procedure. But often times, these one-off findings don’t in any way reflect what’s known in research. What have you learned about the disconnect between what science says and how it’s depicted by media?
Companies have for years kept consumers on the couch for commercial breaks during the Super Bowl, and now, with a captive audience, the big game has become more than a place to push products.
For those with the resources, Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX will offer an unparalleled venue to attract public attention on a host of nationally debated issues, including cyber-bullying and domestic violence.
Recent years have seen a growing focus on politics and issues of national concern during breaks in the game. In 2010, for instance, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow starred in a pro-life commercial with his mother.
In 2013, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns aired an ad pushing for gun control and last year Coca-Cola’s ad in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in multiple languages incited controversy over whether the company was pushing for immigration reform.
Companies have recognized that they can bring more attention to issues with a 30-second spot than advocates could with any number of bills or congressional hearings.
And, not coincidentally, they can polish up their public image at the same time.
“It’s not about running an ad and counting the sales at the 7-Eleven counter,” said Paul Venables, founder and executive creative director of Venables Bell & Partners, a San Francisco-based advertising agency, which has created Audi’s Super Bowl ad every year since 2008.
“It’s about where your brand stands with peoples’ emotions and how they feel connected to it.”
Taking up a cause, he said, has become a way for companies to ensure they’re part of the water cooler conversation at the office the next day.
This year, Coca-Cola is using its airtime to fight cyber bullying.
One of four teasers the company released, shows people typing things like “I hate u” and “you’re a total loser” on the Internet before asking the question, “How much more hate can people take?” Each teaser closes with the hashtag #MakeitHappy.